An arbitrator’s opinion and award was released on Oct. 11 regarding the more than yearlong arbitration between Oakland University and the Oakland University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU-AAUP).
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, chosen by Oakland, was the third-party responsible for reviewing the grievance filed by the OU-AAUP on Sept. 29, 2016, for awarding the OU-AAUP as the winning party.
“This grievance was ultimately about respecting an employee,” said Kenneth Mitton, immediate past president of the OU-AAUP and associate professor biomedical sciences.
The arbitration revolved around the 2015-2020 agreement regarding merit pay between the two parties, which the OU-AAUP said Oakland had violated.
This agreement outlines the plan and timeline toward the switch to OU professors’ yearly raise depending solely on merit. The beginning stages were implemented in 2015, with separate rubrics for each department through which professors are rated based on a one through five scale.
The dean of each school then reviews the submissions and has the opportunity to change the scores as he or she sees fit, as long as the reasoning is relayed to each professor so they have a chance to argue their point. Those who receive a five get the highest percentage raise.
The OU-AAUP filed three grievances after the first year of this agreement, which made up the attribution.
The first grievance was that Oakland awarded several professors from both the nursing and English departments with zeros as their merit score as a result of their reports not being submitted, which led to no merit pay increase.
The arbitrator determined that the agreement did not state there would be consequences for unsubmitted reports, nor did it state a score of zero was an option.
The second grievance was whether there was a violation of paragraph 80c of the contract, which contains the language on deans’ ability to change scores paired with the requirement that professors receive the right to appeal.
The second and third grievances were connected, with the later dealing on whether there was a violation of paragraph 80d of the contract. This states that if Oakland wants to change more than 20 percent of a department’s scores, they can be sent back for reconsideration provided they are accompanied by the suggested change.
The OU-AAUP claimed the violation with these two sections was through scores being sent back for reconsideration without suggested changes, followed by the professors then not being alerted to when their second attempt at scores were being changed.
The arbitrator determined that Oakland was not following 80c when employing 80d, and that it should not be an either/or scenario. Both the university and OU-AAUP agreed that suggested changes had not been sent out in accordance with 80d, and the arbitrator deemed that a violation of the agreement as well.
As a result of the arbitration, Oakland will be required to pay back the professors who had received a zero, with a 0.5 percent increase, equal to a score of one, as well as provide feedback on the scores to allow for the right to appeal going forward.
“Arbitration awards are binding on both parties, so the university intends to implement the arbitrator’s decision,” said Joi Cunningham, assistant vice president of Academic Human Resources at OU.